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Pectus carinatum describes a protrusion of the chest over the sternum, often described as giving the person a bird-like appearance.
Pectus carinatum may occur as a solitary abnormality or in association with other genetic disorders or syndromes.The condition causes the sternum to protrude, with a narrow depression along the sides of the chest. This gives the chest a bowed-out appearance similar to that of a pigeon.
People with pectus carinatum generally develop normal hearts and lungs, but the deformity may prevent these from functioning optimally. There is some evidence that pectus carinatum may prevent complete expiration of air from the lungs in children. These young people may have a decrease in stamina, even if they do not recognize it.
Apart from the possible physiologic consequences, pectus deformities can have a significant psychologic impact. Some children live happily with pectus carinatum. For others, though, the shape of the chest can damage their self-image and self-confidence, possibly disrupting connections with others.
No specific care is indicated for this condition.
Call your health care provider if you notice that your child's chest seems abnormal in shape.
A brace may be used to treat children and young adolescents.
The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about the patient's medical history and symptoms. Question may include:
Pulmonary function testing may be useful to determine the impact of the deformity on the performance of the heart and lungs. Laboratory studies such as chromosome studies, enzyme assays, x-rays, or metabolic studies may be ordered to confirm the presence of a suspected disorder.
Surgery is a possible treatment option. There have been some reports of improved exercise ability and improved lung perfusion scans after surgery.
Boas SR. Skeletal diseases influencing pulmonary function. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 416.
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